What popularized the baby name Kiana in the 1990s?

Fitness instructor Kiana Tom
Kiana Tom on “Kiana’s Flex Appeal

The baby name Kiana started picking up steam in the late 1980s. The name’s rise accelerated through the first half of the 1990s, and it reached peak popularity in 1996:

Girls named Kiana (U.S.)Girls named Kiana (HI)
19981,371 [rank: 226th]49 [rank: 9th]
19971,507 [rank: 198th]47 [rank: 11th]
19961,585† [rank: 190th]56 [rank: 8th]
19951,535 [rank: 192nd]41 [rank: 17th]
19941,117 [rank: 249th]39 [rank: 23rd]
1993712 [rank: 358th]36 [rank: 31st]
1992633 [rank: 402nd]38 [rank: 25th]
1991333 [rank: 658th]20 [rank: 65th]
†Peak usage

The name was particularly trendy in the state of Hawaii.

Here’s a visual of the national usage:

Graph of the usage of the baby name Kiana in the U.S. since 1880
Usage of the baby name Kiana

What was drawing attention to the name Kiana during those years?

Fitness personality Kiana Tom.

It all started in the mid-1980s, when ESPN began broadcasting fitness shows. Their first, Bodies in Motion hosted by Gilad Janklowicz, premiered in 1985. Their second, Getting Fit with Denise Austin, followed two years later.

Their third, BodyShaping, started airing in 1988 and was originally hosted by 6-time Ms. Olympia Corinna “Cory” Everson. As the series evolved, though, hosting duties were transferred to Kiana Tom (who’d been one of Cory’s assistants) and bodybuilder Rick Valente.

Kiana Tom — who is of Chinese, Hawaiian, and Irish descent, and who typically did her beach workouts in a bikini — proved so popular with viewers that, in 1995, she was given her own fitness show: Kiana’s Flex Appeal on ESPN2.

She also hosted several other programs (such as ESPN Summer Sizzle) and gave acting a try (appearing in the fourth Universal Soldier film with Jean-Claude Van Damme, for instance) during the 1990s.

In a 2001 interview, she mentioned that she knew about dozens of her namesakes:

[A]t least 83 children have been named Kiana now — that’s the ultimate compliment!

She was born Joanne Kiana Tom in Hawaii in 1965. Her middle name is the Hawaiian form of the name Diana.

What are your thoughts on the name Kiana? (Do you like it more or less than the homophone Qiana?)

P.S. DePrise Brescia was another BodyShaping regular.


Image: Screenshot of Kiana’s Flex Appeal

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